Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Divine Comedy (band)
The band was originally founded in 1991, although their first album was not successful and the band split up for some time. Returning after 18 months of writing songs, the albums Liberation and Promenade were a complete reinvention of the band and received critical acclaim but little in the way of sales. Both albums were characterised by a baroque style at odds with much chart music of the time, with Hannon revelling in an arch, cultured persona. Liberation featured both a song influenced by an F Scott Fitzgerald story (Bernice bobs her hair) and a setting of William Wordsworth's poem Lucy to music. Promenade is similarly endebted to its influences, from the Michael Nyman-style arrangements to the literary and cinematic references, this time including Jules et Jim and a whole host of writers on The Booklovers.
During this period, The Divine Comedy wrote and performed the theme music for the TV sitcom Father Ted, and later wrote the deliberately bad mock-Eurovision song My Lovely Horse for one episode. Hannon resisted widespread requests from fans to release the track as a single for the Christmas market, but it was eventually released in 1999 as the third track on the CD-single Gin Soaked Boy. The same year also saw a cooperation of the band with singer Tom Jones for a track on his album Reload. This would not be the only time they would be responsible for a TV theme, as In Pursuit Of Happiness was also used by the BBC science and technology show, Tomorrow's World.
The album Casanova, and in particular the single Something for the Weekend led to the band's first major successes, with Neil Hannon becoming a distinctive, albeit unlikely, popstar in an immaculate suit, and always appearing the elegant dandy. At the height of their commercial success, the band put out A Short Album About Love, recorded live in studio with the Brunel Ensemble, who also joined the band for a concert at the Shepherd's Bush Empire, from which several songs were released as B-sides. Subsequently, the band contributed a reworking of Noel Coward's 'I've Been to a Marvellous Party' to a compilation of covers of the writer's songs, with Hannon affecting a Cowardesque lilt (albeit interspersed with an aggressive electro musical backing).
The foppish image, but not the suit, was ditched for the more sombre album Fin De Siecle in 1998, although its biggest hit, the jaunty National Express, belied its more intimate, soul-searching tone. Maintaining the balance between these poles, 1998's Secret History - the Best of the Divine Comedy included a rerecording of The Popstar's fear of the Pollen Count and two new songs (Gin-Soaked Boy and Too Young to Die) alongside the band's main hits.
A serious side to the band was also in evidence in 2000's collaboration with Ute Lemper on her album Punishing Kiss, most of which featured the Divine Comedy as Lemper's backing band. Neil Hannon and Joby Talbot also contributed two original songs and an arrangement of Brecht and Weill's Tango Ballad, whilst Neil Hannon sang two songs as duets with Lemper.
The 2001 album Regeneration attempted to remove the band still further from its association with comedy. It was a greater critical than commercial success, and soon after its release it was announced that The Divine Comedy were splitting up. In 2004, Hannon returned, again using the name The Divine Comedy but as the only member of the band, with the album Absent Friends. Striking a balance between the occasionally earnest tone of the bands later releases and the more lighter tone of the more commercial releases, it encapsulated the essence of the [Divine Comedy].
The lineup of the band has at times consisted only of Neil Hannon, but has also included
- Bryan Mills
- Ivor Talbot
- Joby Talbot
- Rob Farrer
- Stuart 'Pinkie' Bates
- Miggy Barradas
- Fanfare for the Comic Muse (1991)
- Casanova 1996
- A Short Album About Love
- Fin De Siecle 1998
- A Secret History - the Best Of 1999
- Regeneration 2001
- Absent Friends 2004
- Something for the Weekend
- Becoming More Like Alfie
- Frog Princess
- Everybody Knows (Except You)
- I've Been to a Marvellous Party
- National Express
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